Fetal, Perinatal Mortality Rates Stay Largely Unchanged in US

Larry Hand

November 19, 2014

The US fetal mortality rate declined 8% from 2000 to 2006 and remained stable from 2006 to 2012, and the perinatal mortality rate declined 4% from 2006 to 2011, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Elizabeth C. W. Gregory, MPH, Marian F. MacDorman, PhD, and Joyce A. Martin, MPH, all with the NCHS, analyzed data from the 2000-2012 Fetal Death Data Files, the 2006-2011 Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Sets, and the 2000-2012 Birth Data Files of the National Vital Statistics System for their NCHS Data Brief.

They found that the overall fetal mortality rate declined from 6.61 to 6.05 per 1000 births from 2000 to 2006; the 2012 rate was also 6.05.

Early fetal mortality remained about the same, at 3.10 in 2006 and 3.11 in 2012, and the late fetal mortality rate went from 2.97 to 2.96 during the period. Early fetal deaths occur at 20 to 27 weeks of gestation, and late fetal deaths occur at 28 weeks' or longer gestation.

The overall perinatal mortality rate declined at less than 1% per year, from 6.51 per 1000 births in 2006 to 6.26 in 2011, the latest year for which data were available.

Overall fetal mortality rates were essentially flat among the three largest race and Hispanic origin groups (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic women).

The perinatal mortality rate declined 8% among non-Hispanic black women during the period but did not change significantly for the other two groups.

Geographically, perinatal mortality rates fell by 10% or more in 2005-2006 and 2010-2011 in 11 states (Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee). California, Texas, and Maryland experienced declines of less than 10%.

The rates in all of the other states were relatively unchanged except for South Dakota, which recorded an increase in prenatal mortality.

For 2010-2011, perinatal mortality rates ranged from 3.65 per 1000 in Vermont to 8.91 in Mississippi. In addition to Vermont, the rate was less than 5 per 1000 in Alaska, Iowa, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. Alabama, Delaware, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia had rates higher than 8 per 1000.

The NCHS authors conclude, "Total, early, and late fetal mortality rates were generally flat in the United States from 2006 through 2012. Over this same period, fetal mortality rates were also essentially unchanged among each of the three largest race and Hispanic origin groups."

NCHS Data Brief No. 169. Published online November 19, 2014. Full text

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